Does Having a Puppy Help Keep You in the Present? (reposted from 12/21)

A week and a day ago, we adopted a puppy whose name is Parsnip. Our old dog had cancer and we had to put him down a little under a year ago . We have had rescue dogs for twenty years so getting a puppy is a new phenomenon in our household.

True confession: I have never been that great at living in the present. I have tended to dwell in the past – would’ve, could’ve, should’ve territory. Or in the future – what on the horizon for next week should I worry about – did I get a holiday card out? What should I worry about next month – will schools go virtual again due to Omicron? What should I worry about about six to eight months from now when my daughter goes to college?

Having a puppy in the house again challenges that past/future orientation. I find myself in the present whether I am comfortable there or not. I am preoccupied with puppy pees and puppy poops and with learning to reward positive puppy behavior and ignore negative puppy behavior. I am also trying to redirect behaviors like nipping with playing with a toy. It is a constant lesson in cognitive behavioral therapy that has taken me by surprise – emphasis on behavioral – for me and the pup. Somewhat LOL and somewhat really true about CBT.

All in all puppies are a joy but a load of work. For me for now, that work keeps me focused on the present day maybe even the present hour. I am extremely exhausted by it but it does seem to keep me in the now.

To all of you who have beloved pups and other beloved pets, do you find the act of taking care of that pet helps keep you in the present? And avoid the terrible would’ve, could’ve, should’ves or that projected anxiety into and onto the future’s horizon?

My Fight with Anxiety (Updated)

Addendum: The only other thought I have to add right now is this notion of getting out in front of my anxiety. Anticipating it in order to limit it instead of succumbing to it because it is there and it is strong. And sometimes feels stronger than me though it is not. I need to put something else in its place. Self-love and the desire for loving relationships with family and friends is a start. Activities that bring satisfaction and joy like donating goods to Goodwill or giving a friend who is a teacher extra art supplies for her classroom. I do not need anxiety to run my life. I am perfectly capable of running my life without it.

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I have bipolar disorder / mixed states which means highs and lows may simultaneously occur. For me this manifests in anxiety.

I have tried to tell my MD that I would like to go on a new med specifically for the purpose of anxiety reduction but he thinks I have been stable on clozapine – no need to bother since that track record is good.

I am thinking about going to another doctor for a second opinion but have not yet decided to do that.

Anyway, the topic for me today is anxiety and how to limit it. I wake up almost 7 days out of 7 with something I am worried about. My therapist says this is normal as when we sleep we are tapping into the collective unconscious and that that transition is difficult to manage in the waking hours.

I am going then to try something new. I am going to try to acknowledge the fact that I start my day with anxiety but that anxiety is just a thought or a manifestation of sleep tapping into the unconscious. I am going to seek to limit the time I allow for my anxiety to disrupt my day for the first hour or two of the day while I am having my morning coffee. That one to two hours of the day is all I seek to allow anxiety to infiltrate my thoughts.

I am getting older in my late fifties and my husband is in his early sixties. There is only so much time to make good memories together and to have a joyous time together. This includes an evolving relationship with joyous memories with my college freshman daughter as well.

Anxiety robs you of making good memories. It robs you from having special moments with family and friends. It gets in the way of new and renewing relationships.

I do not want anxiety to run my life. Quite aptly put I would like my life to run my anxiety.

So far, I don’t have a very sophisticated plan for accomplishing this, but at least I have my resolve and that is half the battle. So far my plan includes self-talk that anxiety may exist for me but it will not dominate me. It also includes affirmations that say I deserve good times and I deserve good memories. No illness can rob me of that. Also, critic talk is to be ignored. I do not need my internal critic saying I don’t deserve happiness since I have not been fully the wife or mother or sister or daughter I would have preferred. No more critic talk! I should be praising myself for being a strong presence in the lives of my loved ones and asking for forgiveness of self in the times I did not or could not do this.

I don’t know if this plan to limit anxiety will work. I welcome any suggestions you may have. I will also plan to update this post several times to talk about the ins and outs of this new relationship with my anxiety as it moves forward. Hopefully, as it progresses.

Irony or Contradiction – Med Impacts throughout the Day?

For many of us with mental illness, psyche meds are part of the package for movement forward from illness into remission. What I am wondering about today is why my anxiety is the worst when I first wake up for that first hour or two of the day?

The main psyche med I take is Clozapine. The other two are Clonazepam and Oxcarbazepine. I typically take an extended dose of the Clozapine at night before bed around 9:00pm or 9:30pm with a smaller dose of Clonazepam and Oxcarbazepine.

Logically I would think that the time I would feel most vulnerable is the time that is the furthest away from when I last took the Clozapine. In other words, after 24 hours I would expect the medicinal effects of the Clozapine to begin to wear off. What I would expect is that my symptoms would be worse (not better) right before bed at around 9:30pm since that is about 24 hours since my last Clozapine dose.

On the other hand what happens is that my anxiety peaks about 12 hours (not 24 hours) after I take the Clozapine. This peak is at about 9:30am the following day. On the morning after the 9:30pm dose at 9:30am or thereabouts is when I experience the most anxiety.

To complicate matters, the time before bed from 4pm to 9:30pm is usually the least anxiety ridden part of my day. How does that make sense if it is almost 24 hours (not 12hours) since my evening dose of Clozapine? Is it just the routine at that part of the day that calms me?

Overall, these time-frames don’t make sense to me. Again, I would have thought that 24 hours after my last Clozapine dosage would be my most vulnerable time? Not my most anxiety-free time? I also would have expected 12 hours since the last med dose to be a stable time? Not when my morning anxiety peaks?

Does anyone else experience a disconnect between when they take their meds and when symptoms are at their best?

More on Bipolar Depression and Anxiety

It has been about three weeks since my husband and I dropped my daughter at college in New England. There was one day out of about 5 that I was extremely anxious on the border of being non-functional. I have bipolar illness and do not travel well and do not do so well outside my daily routine.

Since my husband and I have returned from this trip I have felt depression kicking in and replacing some of my chronic anxiety. I have talked to my therapist about it and am currently exploring whatever linkages there may be causal or correlative between my depression and my anxiety.

Depression has a certain feel. Anxiety has a certain feel as well. I can tell the depression is coming on due to a generalized feeling of dread and a physical expression of being low energy or down in my mood. It is like a wet blanket all over everything. This feeling of depression is very different from my generalized anxiety. With the anxiety there is always something specific that I am worried about. The source of the anxiety has a specific source in mind: Did my daughter find out how to print her assignments? Is my daughter eating well and eating enough? Is she isolating or making friends? Are her finances for groceries in order?

However with the depression there is not such a direct connection to current events that are on-going in my daughter’s collegiate life. Instead, the depression appears to be me re-living my experiences and hardships in college and projecting them onto my daughter. The depression is not so much about what is going on presently and how can I fix it by being a helicopter Mom (stated objective is to move from this helicopter to supportive Mom) as it is a replay or reminder of events from my past that were not fun at all at the time I was in college.

My depression is all about me resurrecting or reliving past experiences that occurred to me and with me in college. During college was when my bipolar started so that may help to explain things.

The depression is a general malaise. The anxiety is tied to specific details of my life or my daughter’s life.

What does this indicate about the relationship between my anxiety and my depression? I have largely been somewhat anxious since I began treatment with clozapine in 2008. I have not really experienced a depressive state since that I can recall at this time. My current struggles from depression have really just started since we got home from dropping my daughter at college.

If the anxiety is generally topic specific, the depression and malaise are generally not so much so. The anxiety is hard to contain and hard not to push onto other people in my life including my husband and my daughter – as if this impacts my boundaries with each of them. The depression for the most part is not so invasive to boundaries as it is something I sit with while those around me continue with their lives.

I keep asking myself which is better and which is worse? If I am imposing my anxiety on others, that feels like a worse way of managing my health than experiencing my depression and allowing those feelings to occur so that feelings and emotions are not so much being projected on those around me. My depression like it or not is mine while the anxiety I experience is a state I extend to others in my life while not meaning to.

So what is the connection if anything between my anxiety and my depression? Is it possible that underlying all those anxious thoughts about school schedules, meal routines, printer access, train trips at Thanksgiving is a generalized experience of depression that is difficult to distance myself from because the depression echoes experiences of depression or uneasiness when I was in college. If I confront my demons about my own college experience more fully, will I be able to stop experiencing and therefore projecting that experience on my daughter in terms of anxiety checklists?

Can I learn to allow my own college experiences to flow through or wash through my emotional registrars and stand up and say: This was not a good time in my life (for reasons explored in other posts) and I do not wish this on anyone including my college aged daughter. If I can release these depressive experiences as I relive them on my daughter’s college timeline, can I be less likely to project my specific anxieties on my daughter? Is the depression the root cause of the anxieties? Or do they just co-occur? If I finally came to terms with what happened to me during my college years, would I be less likely to project worries upon my daughter or to extend checking behaviors to her.

Bottom line is that I did not feel safe when I was in college (for a variety of reasons outlined in other posts). Now some 40 years later can I just own the fact that I felt unsafe and that I currently do feel safe more or less. If I can recognize that safety is an issue of the past and not so much of the present, will there be less room for that litany of anxious thoughts about this and that specific thing to occur?

Does Your Blood Pressure Vary Due to Anxiety?

I am in the process of adjusting my blood pressure medicine. This has been on-going since about February of this year. I have been tracking my readings for about 7 to 8 months.

The trouble is my blood pressure varies widely over the course of the day I think due to the stress and anxiety and erratic nature of my bipolar illness. Also if I go to an appointment that is stressful like the dentist or for a mammogram, my stress level soars and my blood pressure climbs.

My dental hygienist indicated yesterday there is something called “white coat syndrome” where your blood pressure rises upon seeing someone in the medical establishment (doctor or dentist or someone in that profession) wearing a “white coat.” When I first arrived for my dental cleaning yesterday, my blood pressure levels were very high. I asked again at the end of the appointment whether my levels could be checked again — and they were normal.

Does anyone else have volatile blood pressure readings? That might be tied to anxiety levels? Or suffer from high blood pressure readings when stress is high?

This is a work in progress regarding depression and anxiety

In this post, I am exploring the relationship between anxiety and depression. I originally thought that most people either experience anxiety OR depression, but I have been corrected that this is not always the case. A large percentage of people with depression also experience anxiety.

My therapist has told me in her opinion anxiety and depression are often two sides of the same coin. I am using this post to explore that concept. This post is a work in progress.

Since becoming an empty nester in the last several weeks, I find my old friend depression to be creeping in. I have been wondering how this depression relates to chronic anxiety. As an FYI, I manage bipolar illness and have for more than half of my life.

Yesterday, my husband and I catalogued and bundled five or six huge garbage bags of my daughter’s old clothes. Going through them and bundling them for GoodWill felt both depressing and productive at the same time. The process reminded me of going through belongings after my father died. It was a time of great loss and also a time to look forward to a better day as he had been ill for quite some time.

I suppose getting my daughter’s items together for GoodWill meant that a part of my relationship with her was going away forever. That is the Mom role taking care of all the details for my daughter. There is loss associated with letting go of the hovering Mom even though I am 100% sure it is the healthy thing for me to do as well as what is healthy for her. She is soon to be 19 and very able to manage things in her life that I used to (and still do at times) worry about.

The idea that all these sweaters, and pants and shirts and skirts will have a second life at GoodWill once purchased by a new owner is a reminder to me that my daughter also is embarking on a new chapter in her life. As her belongings move to new owners, so too is her life migrating to a new phase where she and I will continue to relate but relate differently. I will not manage her life so much as support her emotionally and financially. I am learning to do this but am not a pro at it yet (at all). Perhaps as I experience the loss, there will be more room for experiencing the joy of her moving forward in her life with this critical milestone.

The depression I feel is that I am losing the child I have worked so hard to raise. There is sadness in letting go. There is anxiety in letting go. I need to let myself experience the sadness and the sorrow and the anxiety of her moving from one phase in her life – childhood – to another phase in her life – young adulthood.

Clearly there are related joys and moments of extreme happiness that also accompany this transition. My daughter is embarking on a journey of higher education, deliberate self-management and self-initiated problem solving as she maneuvers these first several weeks and months in college. My husband and I are in effect setting her free.

However, I am not quite feeling celebratory yet. I am still in the remembering and experiencing the loss phase of things.

I think perhaps loss can be attributed to a child leaving home for the first time. There is a kind of loss that is similar to loss when someone dies though not so dire and not so extreme. I believe that if I can learn to grieve that loss, I will be more able to embrace the positive developments and positives sides of this lifetime transition. There is also this issue of abandonment. I suffer abandonment issues as a child of divorce. I have bent over backwards so my daughter will not experience abandonment issues – if anything I have overdone it with my hovering Mom role.

So how does all this relate to my chronic anxiety? Is it possible that the anxiety is a symptom or manifestation of the depression I feel in letting go of my daughter’s life details? If I am able to let myself experience the sadness associated with this change, will that allow me to free up or tackle some of my anxious thoughts and give room to feelings of joy, pride, love and support for my daughter and her pending journey of self discovery?

Finally, does anyone else experience depression and anxiety as being related? Do you believe that if you allow yourself to mourn the loss of a prior mode of relationship that that will free you up to embrace the new phase or mode of that relationship? Or might this give less room to feelings of anxiety?

Sorry to ramble on. I am clearly still exploring and processing these thoughts and feelings.

When Depression Creeps in Where Does Anxiety Go?

Soon after becoming an empty nester I have begun to experience some feelings of depression. This is understood as I have bipolar illness. But the depression phases of my bipolar history are fewer and less extreme than the mania phases. Since 2008 while prescribed clozapine, I have been experiencing mixed states that manifest themselves in acute anxiety.

In addition to just becoming an empty nester, there have been two recent deaths (in the past two weeks or so) in my social/family circles (both expected) and my Psyche doctor is experiencing severe back issues and lack of feeling in his feet.

So my question today is where does that long-standing anxiety go when feelings of depression are accepted as part of life’s challenges and puzzles? Is the depression the root cause of the anxiety? Have I been experiencing loads of anxiety because I have not been able to process sadness, pain, separation and depression?

I don’t have the answers to these questions right now. But it seems to me if I am going to come out of this series of mixed states, it is important to acknowledge the depression and allow it to pass. Perhaps then the anxiety will be less so. Any thoughts?

I just want to say…..

I continue to be concerned about the deep divisions in the United States at almost every level of government. Rather than be depressed or anxious about where all this is headed, I have resolved to only focus on things I have control over. That includes getting out there and voting, encouraging others to vote, praying that the US finds a path forward that is not so divisive, being open myself to new ideas and paths forward on the issues, and doing my part in seeking to repair the divide rather than enable it. There is no benefit in worrying about where we are headed as a nation. The worrying does not impact the outcome and only makes me more anxious – which again has no value to me or to others. The goal is to be a part of the solution and limit divisiveness rather than encourage it.

OOOHHHH Final Exams!

My daughter is finishing up high school this month. You may have heard of the program — the International Baccalaureate or IB Diploma Program.

The program is insane – at least in my mind right now. It is testing kids on two sometimes three years of content. Most of these kids were out all of Sophomore and a good part of Junior Year due to COVID and still exams are marching on.

I find myself in a particularly strange spot. I should be providing undying support to my 18-year-old rather than getting her enmeshed in my anxiety. This is really hard for me as college years were the years I first experienced early signs of bipolar. So I worry about the same for her.

All in all, we have less than two weeks to go. So that is great! But it sure would be nice if the IB Diploma Program made some real concessions for studying and mastering content during a world-wide pandemic. I have reached out to the college counselor and he agrees it is an issue globally. So maybe they will give the kids a break?

When is anxiety at its worst?

This is just a quick discussion of any patterns that may exist in my experience of anxiety.

For some strange reason, my anxiety is at its worst when I first wake up and before I have had several cups of coffee – half caffeine and half decaf. It is not a great way to greet the day with full-on anxiety yet that is more often my pattern.

Since developing a walking routine with our new puppy, this morning anxiety has become more of a todo list upon waking which is a welcome change.

It also helps to read the 23rd Psalm outloud upon waking but I do not always do this and haven’t in a while. Perhaps I need to restart this practice.

Usually after my morning coffee my anxiety is still there but tolerable with PRNs.

If you experience anxiety is it ever at the beginning of your day? What are the patterns you see in your anxiety if any?